Artillery: Supersonic


March 9, 2012: The second Indian Army BrahMos missile battalion has entered service. There was also a successful test of BrahMos on March 4th. So far BrahMos missiles have only been deployed on the Pakistan border. But since the army version of BrahMos is carried around in a truck mounted launcher, the missiles could quickly be moved to the Chinese border. The third BrahMos battalion is believed to be for service on the Chinese border. India has been building up its forces in Arunachal Pradesh (which China claims) in the north-east.

BrahMos is a stealth supersonic cruise missile that can be launched from submarines, ships, aircraft, or land is about three-and-a-half times faster than the USA's subsonic Harpoon cruise missile and three times faster than USA's subsonic Tomahawk missile. An air-launched variant is expected to enter service within two years and will make India the only country with supersonic missiles in the army, air force and navy. A hypersonic version of the missile, which is also under development with a speed of Mach 7 to boost aerial fast strike capability, is expected to be ready by 2016.

BrahMos has the capability of attacking surface targets by flying as low as 100 meters (310 feet) in altitude. It can gain a speed of Mach 2.8 and has a maximum range of 290 km. Its air launched version weighs 2.5 tons and the Indian Air Force is working on having an even smaller and lighter version. The army and navy versions of the BrahMos missile weigh three tons or more. All versions have a 200 kg (660 pound) conventional warhead, but it is possible to replace that with a nuclear warhead. The missile is also available for export to whomever may be interested in it as long as they are ready to shell out about $2-3 million for each missile. The cost depends on the version. The BrahMos has been developed as a joint venture between the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) of India and the Federal State Unitary Enterprise NPO Mashinostroyenia (NPOM) of Russia under BrahMos Aerospace. The missile is named after two rivers, the Brahmaputra of India and the Moskva of Russia.

BrahMos is criticized for being too expensive for what it does. Spending $3 million to deliver a 200 kg warhead seems excessive when there are so many other cheaper alternatives available. The one area where BrahMos is valuable is as an anti-ship missile, which is what it was originally designed for. --Rajeev Sharma